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In response to Our Holy Father’s call for a Year of Faith, our Worcester Diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Free Press, is publishing a series of articles on the young vocations in our Diocese. They began by speaking with our Novice, Sister Louise Marie.
A mother? A nurse? A nun?
By Tanya Connor
STILL RIVER – Should she be a mother, a nurse or a nun – or all three? These were questions a local woman pondered as she looked into a vocation, going to Italy, Washington and New York before returning home. Sister Louise Marie Turner, 26, tells this story of her journey.
During her freshman year at the University of Dallas, the prospect of a religious vocation did not make her happy, she said. She figured for the time being she could just study. She also sang in the sacred music choir.
“That was really living in the liturgy in a way I hadn’t experienced before,” she said. “It opened up the liturgy for me. I’d grown up with the Latin Mass and loved the Latin Mass.” She attended Latin Mass at college, but sang Gregorian chant at English-language Masses, she said.
Sister Louise Marie, the third of eight children of Edward and Ann Turner of Lunenburg, said that their family lived in Dallas, where her parents met, then in Northern Virginia, where her grandmother lives. They moved to the Worcester Diocese so her parents could teach at, and she and her siblings could attend, Trivium School in Lancaster.
In 1998 their family started attending the Latin Mass at St. Ann’s Chapel in the convent of the Sisters of St. Benedict Center here, she said. The sisters, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, use the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. When the Latin Mass was celebrated at Immaculate Conception Parish in Fitchburg, the Turners became part of the community there, returning to St. Ann’s after the parish was merged and the church closed in July 2010.
Sister Louise Marie said that in 2008, the year after she finished college, she went on an eight-day Ignatian retreat at St. Ann’s to discern if she had a religious vocation. Before going, she told a friend from college she’d always wanted to be a mother. “Any woman who fulfills her vocation is a mother in some capacity,” responded her friend. “The question is, “Are you supposed to be the bride of Christ?’” “I’ve come to see she’s very right. Every sister I know is a mother to many souls,” Sister Louise Marie says now.
After the retreat, Sister Louise Marie said, she was looking for a job, a nursing school and a convent all at once. “It became apparent I had to choose: Nursing now, or a convent now?” she said. “Sisters can be nurses.”
In “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis she found God’s response: “I seek not thy gift, but thyself. As it would not suffice thee if thou hadst all things but me, so neither can it please me whatever thou givest as long as thou offerest not thyself.” (Book IV, Chapter 8, Verse 1)
“God made me want him now; that means he wants me now,” Sister Louise Marie reasoned. “It’s not that I needed to bring him a certain nursing skill set. Give him myself and he’ll know what to do with me.”
Sister Cecilia Cannon, the mother superior at St. Ann’s, said she encouraged Sister Louise Marie to visit other communities, which had sisters closer to her age. Sister Louise Marie said she visited the Sisters of Life in New York City, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church in Washington state and the Sister Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus in Florence, Italy, where her younger brother just entered seminary. In between, she returned to St. Ann’s.
“Can I point out you’re talking about St. Ann’s an awful lot?” the mother superior in Florence asked her. “I think God was teaching me to trust him,” Sister Louise Marie said. By going to Florence “I tried the most outlandish thing” God could ask. “Knowing he wasn’t asking that of me, I felt free to come home which is what St. Ann’s is.”
In September 2010 she went to St. Ann’s as an aspirant for a month, then became a postulant. In May 2011 she entered the novitiate and is still a novice. The next step, which she will probably take next summer, will be temporary vows for at least three years.
“I think there are three reasons that I’m here: the liturgy, the intellectual life as a way of living out the faith, and Our Lady,” Sister Louise Marie said of St. Ann’s.
“I read in Dom Gueranger that the liturgy is the Holy Spirit’s primary way of drawing a soul into union with Christ. And so if my life as a religious is supposed to be union with Christ, I need the most beautiful, the richest, the most profound liturgy, and I need it every day and that meant the Latin Mass.” She said she does attend English Mass, but prefers Latin.
“I knew the intellectual life had to continue for me” when looking at religious communities, she said. “The work of this community is to teach the faith. So the Sisters sell books by members of the community. We teach catechism classes to the kids that come to Mass here. And Sister Cecilia teaches the altar servers. Being here I’ve realized true evangelical charity is to teach people the faith and give them a love of it.”
The third reason she is at St. Ann’s is the Blessed Mother, Sister Louise Marie said. “I didn’t know before I got here that she’s the reason I’m here, but I have been getting to know her and I can see how she is the perfect model for any Christian and especially for religious, because she gives the perfect human response to God the Father, to her Spouse the Holy Spirit, and to love of Jesus Christ. If you go to her, she’ll always take you to Our Lord.”
What has Sister Louise Marie learned? “Try not to have pre-conceived notions of how God should work in your life, because you’re always going to be wrong,” she says. “God is beyond you. You can’t say what he’s going to do.
“The second thing I’ve learned: Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is and has to be the strength and the source of my life as a religious and of any apostolic work.
“And third is something that Father (Leonard) Feeney said: ‘Trust Our Lady completely and she will take care of things in a way you never dreamed.’And it’s true.”
Asked how long it’s been since the community had a novice, Sister Cecilia replied, “Forever.”
“Every novice has to get another one,” she said. “That was always a custom. I’m just hoping we’ll have more in the 20s or early 30s.”
She said it’s wonderful having a younger person in the community, which consists of 11 sisters in addition to the novice. She said the next oldest is in her 50s and the oldest is 92. “She’s very, very good with the older sisters,” she said of the young novice. She humors the older sisters, getting them to take their medicine.
“The thing is, being the kid in the house, you get away with a lot,” joked Sister Louise Marie. She said she had been applying to study to be a nurse practitioner for geriatrics. She said it is beautiful for her to see these sisters who have lived years of religious life with joy and humor. “I don’t think it’s religious life if there isn’t joy,” she said.
“Our Lady’s the cause of our joy, and we belong to her,” added Sister Cecilia. “It’s the persons of Jesus and Mary we love. We want to bring people to them.”
Article Courtesy of The Catholic Free Press
On the Feast of the Queenship of Our Lady, Amy Turner was received into the Community as a Novice, and given the habit of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and her new name, Sr. Louise Marie. Fr. Peter Connelly, OSB celebrated a beautiful Solemn High Mass, with Fr. Stark assisting as deacon and Fr. James Doran, OMV as subdeacon.
Article Courtesy of The Catholic Free Press